207. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Xuan Thuy, Chief of North Vietnamese Delegation
- Vo Van Sung, North Vietnamese Delegate General in Paris
- Phan Hien of North Vietnamese Delegation
- North Vietnamese Interpreter
- One other North Vietnamese Official
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Major General Vernon Walters, Defense Attaché
- W. Richard Smyser, NSC Staff
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff
Kissinger: It is a great pleasure to see the Minister again.
Xuan Thuy: For me too.
Kissinger: How is Mr. Le Duc Tho?
Xuan Thuy: He is now in Hanoi. He has not come to Paris again since your last meeting. I told him that Mr. Special Adviser wanted to meet with us. Since he is engaged, he asked me when I meet with you to give you his greetings. He said he hoped he would see Mr. Special Adviser again.
Kissinger: Please give him my warm regards. I want to remind you and him of my invitation to you to visit me in the U.S. when all this is over.
Xuan Thuy: No doubt, when the war is ended, mutual visits will be easier. I hope Mr. Special Adviser will come to our country. I don’t know if you have visited Saigon. I hope you will also come to Hanoi.
Kissinger: I have been in Saigon. I hope to visit Hanoi. As I have often told the Minister, I have the greatest respect for the courage and dignity of the Vietnamese people, and for the intelligence of Messrs. Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy. I only object to their tenacity.
Xuan Thuy: You are tenacious. Not we. We want an early end to the war. You prolong the withdrawal of troops. We want a prompt withdrawal of troops. You don’t.[Page 652]
Kissinger: Before the end of our discussions, the Minister must let me win at least one argument before my self-confidence is destroyed.
Xuan Thuy: I think you win all the time.
Kissinger: That fact is hidden from me.
A technical point. These meetings are known only to the President and Ambassador Bruce on our side. No one else on the American side. The fact of my visits here is known only to the President of France, not to the Foreign Ministry or anyone else.
We are sometimes asked by some of your allies, when you inform them of these meetings. I want you to know we never respond or make known the substance of our conversations.
Xuan Thuy: I understand that we shall maintain the modalities as before.
Xuan Thuy: Sometimes people on your side ask ours questions. Only a few days ago the press and our acquaintances have asked us that they have heard rumors of secret talks between us on the question of POW’s. I answered them that our position on POW’s is quite clear. No discussion is necessary.
Therefore I understand Mr. Special Adviser’s position is that your side will not divulge anything in connection with these meetings. We will do the same.
Kissinger: We won’t even divulge the fact of the meeting. We do not tell the French what goes on. We have to tell the French that I am here in order to get the plane in. But we do not tell them the contents. We tell them nothing.
Xuan Thuy: I think that if the Presidency knows, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does too.
Kissinger: I doubt it.
Xuan Thuy: I am prepared now to listen.
Kissinger: I have a rather brief statement.
Last time we met the Minister closed the meeting by saying, “Each time we meet, the meeting is ended with a smile.” However, it is also true that in our previous talks we have made no real progress toward bringing peace to Vietnam.
I am here in order to bring concrete progress as well as smiles, because if there are to be real negotiations to end the war, these negotiations must be now.
We know each other’s basic views very well. There is no reason to waste time on general philosophy, on exhortations, on rhetoric or on an analysis of how we see the situation within Vietnam or Indochina.[Page 653]
President Nixon has conducted a personal review of the negotiations. He has carefully looked at your positions and we have looked at our own. The President has sent me here to make one last effort to break the deadlock.
Here is our final proposal for a settlement. There will be no other in this Administration.2
- First, we are prepared to set a terminal date for the withdrawal of all our forces from South Vietnam. We would, as I have indicated earlier, arrange for roughly the same timetable for the withdrawal of other Allied forces.
- Second, the Vietnamese and the other peoples of Indochina should discuss among themselves the manner in which all other outside forces would withdraw from the countries of Indochina.
- Third, there should be a ceasefire in place throughout Indochina, to become effective at the time when U.S. withdrawals based on the final agreed timetable begin.
- Fourth, as part of the ceasefire, there should be no further infiltration of outside forces into the countries of Indochina.
- Fifth, there should be international supervision of the ceasefire and its provisions.
- Sixth, both sides should renew their pledge to respect the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Accords, to respect the neutrality, territorial integrity, and independence of Laos and Cambodia. This could be formalized at an international conference.
Seventh, I want to reiterate our proposal for
the immediate release of all prisoners of war and innocent civilians
held by both sides throughout Indochina. We believe this issue
should be settled immediately on a humanitarian basis. If this is
not done, the men must be released as an integral part of the
settlement we are proposing in our final offer. We would expect:
- —Your side would present a complete list of all prisoners held throughout Indochina on the day an agreement is reached.
- —The release of the prisoners would begin on the same day as our withdrawals under the agreed timetable.
- —The release of prisoners would be completed at least two months before the completion of our final withdrawals.
We are prepared to talk concretely and to make rapid progress. We have framed this offer to respond to your proposals. We expect that you will deal with our final proposals in a constructive spirit.
My presence at these meetings has two implications. I would not be here unless the President were prepared to move rapidly toward a negotiated solution.
Second, there is no sense in these sessions if they are used only for us to tell you what we will do while you will not tell us what you will do. Negotiations must be a two-way street.
Let me emphasize to you that our meeting today is crucial. If you look back over our six previous meetings, you can make many criticisms but you cannot accuse me of having ever misled you.
Since 1968 we have done everything that your side and other countries have told us would lead to genuine negotiations.
Today we have taken a final step toward you. Now, if ever, is the time for us to reach an honorable settlement.
It is for you to decide, of course, whether further battle will bring you additional gains and if such gains would be worth the additional suffering and losses that will surely come. You must judge whether prolonged fighting against those who pose no long-term threat to you might face you with more real dangers later on and jeopardize your long-term future.
We have clearly made our choice. If necessary we are determined to persist. But we strongly prefer a negotiated settlement.
Therefore we propose to start today to end the war and move toward peace. Let both sides refrain from military pressures as we go forward rapidly with negotiations. We propose to you one last time to work rapidly for a peace that will redeem the sacrifices that both sides have made and that will launch the process of reconciliation.
Thank you Mr. Minister.
Xuan Thuy: (To his interpreter.) May I have these seven points repeated?
Mr. Special Adviser, may I ask you a few questions for clarification?
Kissinger: The Minister would not disappoint me by failing to do that.
Xuan Thuy: The first point is that in your seven point proposal you only mention your disposition to set a time limit for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces. You have not yet set a definite date for these withdrawals.
Do you mean by that that this date should be discussed or that such date will be set at some time later?[Page 655]
The second point I would like to raise is that, in our previous sessions, you and we both said that military questions and political questions should be discussed at the same time. Now in your proposal, I have noticed, you have only spoken of military questions, and leave aside the political questions.
May I pose these two questions? If further questions arise, I will pose them later.
Kissinger: With respect to your first question. We will set a date when we know that the basic proposition is acceptable to you. Then, when the date is set, we will discuss the details of all the other points.
With respect to the second question, we believe that the proposal we have made reflects the reality of the current situation.
When U.S. forces are finally withdrawn, the political future of South Vietnam will have to be left to the Vietnamese.
Xuan Thuy: I would like to put a question regarding your second point. I feel that you have now reversed the order of these discussions.
Kissinger: Reversed what order?
Xuan Thuy: At the first stage, you said that the U.S. and the Vietnamese would discuss only military questions. As to political questions, they would be settled by the Vietnamese themselves. Then, at the second stage, we have come to the agreement that military questions and political questions should be discussed at the same time.
But now, at what you say is the final stage, you have separated these questions again and returned to the first stage of our discussions.
That will not settle the problem, because whatever you say the Saigon Administration is one created, set up by the U.S.
Kissinger: Is that a question or a statement?
Xuan Thuy: I am not now stating any views on your proposal. These questions are put to see whether I have well understood your proposal.
Kissinger: We have heard from your side for a year that setting a date would lead to constructive negotiations to end the war. We have told you that we cannot do both. Since we have told you that, once we set a date, what happens after that is not our responsibility.
Therefore we are now accepting your proposal that we set a date. What happens later will have to depend on the political evolution in Vietnam.
Xuan Thuy: I understand now.
It does not mean that you have accepted our proposal. It is that you want to return to your previous position.[Page 656]
Kissinger: It means that we are accepting your proposal to set a date, which you have told us would lead to a settlement of the conflict. It is what I told you when we met in September.3
Xuan Thuy: Let me put further questions.
Please, Mr. Special Adviser, what do you mean by saying that the question of POW’s should be an integral part of an overall settlement, and on the other hand that the release should be completed two months before troop withdrawals are completed?
Kissinger: I mean that as part of the final offer that I have made, there must be agreement that prisoners will be released. The release of prisoners must be made side by side with withdrawals. The last POW must be released two months before the last American is withdrawn.
Xuan Thuy: I would like to ask the meaning of the last POW’s being released two months before the last American is withdrawn. The POW’s are a consequence of the war. You are a philosopher. How does philosophy explain that?
Kissinger: Let me make two points:
- First, of course, we would release any prisoners which we and our allies hold on the same schedule.
- Second, at that point, the number of our forces remaining in Vietnam will be so small that the direction will be self-evident.
- Third, if the Minister and I can solve all the other issues, I believe we will not let philosophy block a final settlement.
Xuan Thuy: The philosophy is yours to explain. There must be a reason for everything.
When you give lessons to students in the university, you should give logic, reasons for doing this.
Why the troops making aggression want to be withdrawn very slowly and very late, and the aggressors captured released first?
Kissinger: They’ll be released at the same time except for a small group. But I don’t think we should waste time on this. It is not an important point.
Xuan Thuy: May I propose now a little break, so that I can review. If I feel something is unclear, I would pose further questions.
Kissinger: The Minister is difficult enough when he has no time to think. I’m not sure I’m serving my own interest.
Xuan Thuy: You have proposed many times that we have a break. Now I do so.[Page 657]
Kissinger: I need it.
(There was a break of about 45 minutes. For 35 minutes Thuy conferred with his colleagues while his interpreter asked for a copy of the English version of the seven points. They were read to him and he made a verbatim record. During the 10 minute tea and snack break, Mr. Kissinger stated that the U.S. was not a long-term enemy of North Vietnam.)
Xuan Thuy: First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Special Adviser for having presented the seven-point proposal given to you by President Nixon.
You said that this proposal is the final one under the present Administration. There will be no other.
On this point I have no comment to make, because this is up to the Nixon Administration. We have our own point of view.
Now, regarding these seven points, we have just had time to look very perfunctorily at them. Therefore my comments now are based on this perfunctory review of the seven points. What I will say is only preliminary remarks. It does not mean that we have accepted the proposal, or that we do not accept it.
Particularly, there is a point we deem necessary to elaborate our point of view on, so that there may be no misunderstanding on your part.
You have long known that we support the PRG 104 and 8 point5 proposals. I do not repeat our position. But, through the realities of the situation, since we met the last time in September, we have come to summarizing in three points confirming to the real situation in Vietnam. Since we have not met for a long time . . .
I raised these three points at the 109th session at Kleber Street6 and later. I repeatedly raised these three points again.
The first point is whether the U.S. accepts the time limit of June 30, 1971 for withdrawal of U.S. and Allied forces. If not, it should propose another reasonable date for this withdrawal for the consideration of the parties. Naturally, such a deadline should be aimed at rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces; it is not for prolonged withdrawal.
The second point is that the U.S. should accept the reasonable and logical proposal of the PRG concerning the formation of an administration in Saigon without Thieu-Ky-Khiem, standing for peace, neutrality, [Page 658] independence, and democracy, and such administration will engage in serious negotiations with the PRG.
The third point is that the U.S. should respect its engagements on complete and unconditional cessation of bombing and acts of war against the DRV, as well as on encroachment on the security of the DRV.
After the 109th session, I kept repeating these three points and I gave more precision, saying that the first point regarding a date for withdrawal is imperative, and should be settled immediately before we go further.
So far the U.S. has not mentioned any definite date for troop withdrawals.
If now the U.S. sets a date, then this will pave the way for a settlement of all other questions rapidly and easily, including the question of the captured military personnel.
I recall these three points to show that the first point is not separate from the other points, to show that military questions should not be separated from political questions.
However, in the seven points you have just presented, I have two remarks to make:
The first point worth noting is that in your presentation you said the U.S. was disposed to set a date for troop withdrawal, but you did not say a definite date, what day, what month, what year. Such a definite date would pave the way for a settlement of all other questions.
So your representation is not quite conforming to what we have been stating.
Kissinger: That, of course, is not my total ambition in life.
Xuan Thuy: Because you said you accepted our proposal, I said you have not.
My second remark is that in our previous private meetings you and I agreed that both military questions and political questions should be discussed at the same time. And now you separate these two kinds of questions.
As I understand, it is always your view that the question of the South Vietnamese Administration should be settled by the South Vietnamese themselves. Theoretically, it is so. But practically, it is known to everyone that the U.S. has set up and backed up the present Administration so far. You kept saying to us that this Administration was formed through elections, and that it has its own political structure.
This affirmation is for diplomatic and propaganda fields, but when we come to a settlement, we should go to the root, to the nature, of the problem. Therefore, if now you return to your original position, saying that you will maintain the present Administration in South Vietnam, [Page 659] and you refuse to discuss the political problems at the same time, then one of the basic problems will not be settled.
Now I would like to speak about the public opinion in South Vietnam. They are talking a great deal about the coming elections.
You have been telling us for some time that you do not want a change in South Vietnam in an official way. Therefore, I would suggest that you should think about the coming election. That is some opportunity, which does not imply unnatural change in South Vietnam. It is an opportunity for you to prove your desire to settle the problems of Vietnam, both military questions and political questions.
Third, you have spoken about the question of prisoners. In my questions, I have to some extent made clear my point of view. You said that we should not waste our time in discussing this question here.
Kissinger: I meant the two-month difference. I said we should not waste time on that point.
Xuan Thuy: So I’ll refrain from discussing this question now.
But I should point out that you have launched many campaigns with respect to the question of POW’s. You are stepping up such campaigns now. In our view, we think such campaigns may deceive a number of Americans in that they are aimed at deceiving a number of Americans to cover up your real intentions. But as far as the Vietnamese are concerned, the people who are fighting for their independence, these campaigns have no effect at all.
It is our real desire to settle the problem. If a settlement is to be reached, we should go straight to the gist of the problem, and should not use such problems as these for propaganda.
Fourth, you have mentioned Laos and Cambodia. You have mentioned withdrawal from Indochina. We have repeatedly made clear our view on that. We have been stating many times that we respect the sovereignty, neutrality, and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Laos. We have been respecting the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962.
For the time being, there are contacts and meetings between the representatives of Prince Souphanouvong and Prince Souvanna. It is our earnest desire to see the Laotians come to a peaceful settlement of their own problems.
Fifth, you said you would not be here if President Nixon had not wanted a rapid settlement of the conflict. It is our assessment, too. We know that Mr. Special Adviser is an important personality in the U.S. Administration. You have to cross the ocean many times to come here. It is evident that the purpose is important. Your position is important. Your work is important.[Page 660]
It is the same for our own government. It is also the earnest desire of our own government to see the problem of Vietnam settled on the basis of respect for the independence and sovereignty of Vietnam.
That is why I myself, as a Minister, and Mr. Le Duc Tho, one of the leaders of our own party, have been sent here. We have come here as people who have the confidence and trust of our government and party and with competence and authority to settle the problem. If it had not been so, then our government would have sent here some other Ambassador, and I would not be here. I have been here for over two years. Since May, 1968.
But the question is how to settle the problem. You said that we should consider whether further military operations should continue, since the U.S. will continue also. And we should consider whether the long-term future of the DRV would be jeopardized.
I have many times told you that the objective for our nation and the Vietnamese people is genuine peace and genuine independence. It is natural that we should follow the path of negotiations to reach genuine peace and independence. But on the contrary if you purposely or deliberately apply your policy of aggression against our country there is no other way left for us but to continue our struggle. This has been proven by history. We are not making aggression against anyone. We are not doing any harm whatsoever to the U.S. In comparison to the U.S. we are a far smaller country. Our might and power are not as great as that of the U.S. There is no reason why we would seek problems with the U.S.
What we want is that neither the U.S. nor any other country make aggression against our country and should leave us alone. The Vietnamese people would be able to engage in the peaceful construction of Vietnam. They would establish peaceful relations with all countries, including the U.S.
It is our hope the day will come when you will invite me and Le Duc Tho to visit the U.S. I hope also the day will come when we could invite you to Hanoi.
We are not afraid of a policy of violence, but we would very much prefer negotiations.
Now I will not relate all the developments since we met last time in September. I will only relate here the developments since October.
Kissinger: You’re telling me that you are just skipping one month.
Xuan Thuy: You kept extending the war to Cambodia. You launched a total victory campaign against Cambodia. It has failed. No settlement has been reached in Cambodia.
Kissinger: May I interrupt the Minister. We will get nowhere if we keep repeating history. I didn’t repeat history.[Page 661]
Xuan Thuy: No, I would like to speak on which way is better, the policy of violence or the policy of negotiations.
You launched Lam Son 719 into Laos. As a result the U.S. and puppet troops failed. You intended to cut Laos into two parts. Your tactics, your strategy have failed too. You are making a great deal of propaganda about the successful policy of Vietnamization, that as a result of the success of Vietnamization the Saigon Administration can stand alone. But I should say that before the application of the Vietnamization policy this Saigon Administration was there. It was there not because of the success of Vietnamization but because of the presence of U.S. forces.
Now for troop withdrawal. You would withdraw by the air or by the sea. You could withdraw by the airways you control; you have enough. The seaways are under your control because of your great number of ships. You should have withdrawn all forces rapidly, but you are unwilling to do that. Does that mean that conditions are not ripe for withdrawals, or that you do not have the means for withdrawals? Now many American persons, politicians, military people, affirm that it would take only fifteen days to withdraw U.S. forces.
Kissinger: That’s total nonsense. Besides we have an agreement in these meetings that the Minister will not comment on the U.S. domestic situation.
Xuan Thuy: Because you thought we have to follow your intentions and because your own people, Americans, make assessments of the situation in Vietnam, therefore I have to quote them. If they make statements on the Middle East—
Kissinger: The Minister and I have an understanding. We’ll take care of our public opinion and you of yours.
Xuan Thuy: We have made such an understanding, but since your public opinion speaks on the situation, therefore we must give an interpretation.
Kissinger: All right, but I won’t listen to it at these meetings.
Xuan Thuy: So now I say that it is our earnest desire to have serious negotiations. I suppose you too have an earnest desire for serious negotiations. Therefore I have analyzed which is the better way, the policy of violence or of negotiations. We are reluctant to follow the policy of violence. If you follow the policy of violence, I don’t think you will obtain the results you think. Therefore it is better to have serious negotiations.
Such are our preliminary remarks after hearing your opening statement and seven points and concluding paragraphs. But it is natural that to comprehensively understand these proposals they will need further study.
Kissinger: Naturally.[Page 662]
Xuan Thuy: So the only suggestion I have is that: of these seven points, are there any points that we should pay particular attention to? If so, let me know.
Secondly, is there any point we have not clearly understood and on which you want to give a fuller explanation?
Kissinger: Let me ask some questions. The Minister pointed out that if a date was set this could pave the way for solution of other problems rapidly and easily. Is that correct?
Xuan Thuy: Right.
Kissinger: Am I to understand that the DRV is prepared to release prisoners if we set a date?
Xuan Thuy: First I should say that I have pointed out three points at the 109th session at Kleber Street and subsequent sessions. I stress, lay emphasis on the first point.
Secondly, the date you would set should be a reasonable one for rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces. It should not be a date just for a date’s sake, or very far away.
Kissinger: I understand.
Xuan Thuy: And if such a date is set then it would open the way for a settlement of all other questions including the question of captured military personnel.
Kissinger: I have heard this. But what I want to know is what does “open the way” mean? Will the prisoners be released if we set a date?
Xuan Thuy: I said already that if a date is set then all other questions will be settled, including captured personnel.
Kissinger: Can I put down “yes” in my notes?
Xuan Thuy: All other questions, including the question of captured military men, will be settled. You have not set a date, you have not given a specific date, and you can not expect a specific answer.
Kissinger: I don’t want a specific answer. You can make the answer conditional. If a date is fixed, mutually agreed, will the prisoners be released? Or will the Minister begin to speak of prisoners? We have too much experience on that.
Xuan Thuy: We have a precedent with the French in the past. After the signing of the Geneva Agreement all French prisoners of war were released immediately.
So on this question now we have shown more flexibility. We have said that once the date is set after that discussions will begin on the question of release. When we say discussions on release that means coming to release. You have apprehensions about discussions but there will be no discussion without setting a date. And there can be no settlement without discussion.[Page 663]
Kissinger: I had an experience with Mr. Sung’s predecessor, Mai Van Bo, in 1967. We were told that if we stopped the bombing there would be constructive negotiations. Four years later we have stopped the bombing and this hasn’t led to constructive negotiations.
I tell you categorically that we will not set a date without assurance that this will lead to the release of prisoners of war. We would not set a date. This is not subject to negotiations. We will not set a date in exchange for discussions.
Let me now be concrete about our proposal. We must be realistic. The Minister is skillful enough to keep this discussion going for the next six years if he wants to. You have told me that if we set a date it would lead rapidly and easily to solution of all other problems. This is the purpose of our final offer. If you tell us that the basic offer is acceptable, i.e., that all other points I have mentioned, including the release of prisoners, are agreed, I will then give you a date. You will of course have your own idea about that date. Once we agree the other measures will be worked out in complete detail. And we believe that with good will on both sides this can be done rapidly.
Now let me say a realistic word about political questions. I am of course familiar with the three points that the Minister made at the 109th session. But we are talking now about reality. I told the Minister at our first meeting nearly two years ago7 that the longer the war goes on the more difficult it is for the U.S. to influence the situation in Saigon. If the war goes on another two years it will be more difficult still. This is why we say that this is our last opportunity for you and us to have a serious negotiation.
The Minister has pointed out that there will be elections in South Vietnam this year. Of course I will not presume to lecture the Minister about the political situation in Vietnam. I want to make two assertions to the Minister. First, the U.S. will not interfere in the political process of the elections. Secondly, if you and we could settle military issues during the summer then the people of South Vietnam could make their decisions with full knowledge of what the military situation will be over the years ahead. They will then know the degree of American military presence which they will have in the future and can therefore make their decisions accordingly. This is another reason why we should settle the issues rapidly.
We will listen if you have another political proposal, a political proposal other than the one you have made. But we believe the realistic situation is best described as I have done, and therefore our final [Page 664] offer has an indirect impact on the political situation as well. That is for you to decide.
I want to remind the Minister one more time of what I have said on several previous occasions. We have no interest in tricking you. First, we have too much respect for your intelligence to think we are able to do so. Secondly, we want an agreement that will last and not one that will break down in a year or two.
I suspect we have gone as far today as we can go. I would like to ask the Minister how he proposes we continue now.
Xuan Thuy: May I have some comments on what you just said? What you just said seems to me to say that if the war is prolonged it is due to us. It appears that the prolongation of the Paris talks is due to us too.
Kissinger: It is fruitless to discuss this.
Xuan Thuy: You see we demanded a complete and unconditional cessation of bombing to begin the four-party talks. You have violated such an engagement. As for us we have continued the four-party talks. And the three parties were ready in Paris in November; only the Saigon Administration was absent.
Kissinger: You are serious and we are serious. I don’t doubt we have different perceptions; if not, we wouldn’t be at the impasse we are at now. We must do something about the future or remain prisoners of the past.
Xuan Thuy: It is not my intent to review the past, but since you mentioned it, I have to refer to it.
Through your statement, I see you want to separate the military questions from the political questions. You want only to raise the questions of prisoners and military questions. But whatever statement you make you say you should comply with the realistic situation. But there is one reality you don’t want to comply with, that is, that you want to interfere in the existing Saigon Administration. We and you should do all we can to do our best to come to the end of the war in all fields. Now we have agreed we should further examine your proposals.
Xuan Thuy: We have to meet again.
Kissinger: Should we set a date now, or get in touch? How much time do you think you need to prepare a response?
Xuan Thuy: It will take a few weeks. I have to look into my program too. Should it be on a Sunday?
Kissinger: Sunday is easiest for me because I can be away from Washington without too many people knowing. In two or three weeks? That would be the 13th or 20th of June.[Page 665]
Xuan Thuy: (After discussing with his colleagues.) We are engaged the coming three weeks. How about June 27th?
Kissinger: That would be very hard for me. After the 20th it is very hard for me until mid-July. June 20th is impossible for you?
Xuan Thuy: I will be engaged.
Kissinger: Or June 21 if necessary.
Xuan Thuy: I have to set my program. I propose we get in contact later.
Kissinger: Is the 27th possible for you? It is impossible for me.
Xuan Thuy: In early July?
Kissinger: I won’t know.
Xuan Thuy: We shall get in contact later.
Kissinger: Let me explain the technical side to you. It is very hard for me to come secretly. The next time I propose to go on an official trip to London and come over here from London. To do that I must know about two to three weeks ahead of time to make plausible my trip. A sudden trip to London will raise suspicions and discussions.
There is one other technical difficulty—there is no reason to bother you with these, but just so you know my problem. I have a tentative plan to be the official representative to the inauguration of the President of Korea for July 1. If I do that I am in that area for 10 days. If so, I couldn’t be here until mid-July. I say this only to indicate that I am not playing games with you. You should get in touch with General Walters.
Xuan Thuy: Before you go to Korea, can you come here?
Kissinger: I cam come June 20th. I know this is difficult for you. I could come on the 21st or if necessary on the 19th.
Xuan Thuy: These few days are very difficult. But you should be in Korea on what date?
Kissinger: July 1.
Xuan Thuy: Can you come before then?
Kissinger: Tell me what dates are possible for you.
Xuan Thuy: The 27th or 28th.
Kissinger: If I go, I know I must leave on the 26th. Therefore it must be before the 26th.
Xuan Thuy: The 26th?
Kissinger: The 25th at the latest.
Xuan Thuy: So you can come on the 25th?
Kissinger: What is the earliest date that you can—I hate to do this—I would like to be cooperative.
Xuan Thuy: For me the best is the 27th. Since we are discussing the 25th, I should review my program.[Page 666]
Kissinger: The 24th is a meeting date (plenary). Is the 23rd impossible?
Xuan Thuy: I shall see.
Kissinger: Let us say either the 23rd or the 25th.
Xuan Thuy: Either the 23rd or the 25th.
Kissinger: The 23rd is much better for me. That I can make definitely.
Xuan Thuy: And the 25th?
Kissinger: I will try very hard.
Xuan Thuy: I will choose which of the two days and inform General Walters.
Kissinger: May I suggest one other thing in the interval. I am certain this will be considered very seriously by your government. Let me propose that both sides avoid inflammatory actions during the interval. I am not asking for assurances. I am just suggesting in order to create a useful atmosphere.
Secondly, of course, if you reject this proposal, there will be no concrete problems. But if in general this is agreeable, if in general this has possibilities, then I would recommend that both sides be prepared to talk concretely on all points and any other points they want to discuss, and also to establish a concrete work program.
I only want to repeat one thing. In our judgment the best possible way to have political impact is to have a military solution this year.
If I can say one other personal thing, one other point. The last time between our first and second meeting your colleague Madame Binh made a public statement.8 While this has good propaganda purpose, it makes it difficult for serious negotiations because it forces us to make a public reply.
I have trouble enough with my colleagues to try and tell you how to deal with yours.
Xuan Thuy: In connection with your first point.
Kissinger: What’s my first point?
Xuan Thuy: With regard to taking inflammatory actions. I would like to express my hope and desire to observe this. It depends mostly on the NLF–PRG. I will convey this to them.
Kissinger: I understand. It is a suggestion, not a proposition.[Page 667]
Xuan Thuy: As to your second point. In case your proposal is accepted in general, then next time we should be prepared to discuss all concrete questions. Naturally, we must study first.
Kissinger: Do you think we need more than one day?
Xuan Thuy: Let me study first.
Kissinger: You can tell General Walters concerning the meeting time. It is very difficult to arrange.
Xuan Thuy: As to Madame Binh’s statement, she has her right to make a statement. She is very prepared to meet Mr. Special Adviser, but you refuse to meet her.
Kissinger: I will ruin her reputation.
(Mr. Vy talked to Xuan Thuy.)
Xuan Thuy: I would propose also that you should examine our preliminary remarks.
Kissinger: We will do so very carefully, you can be very certain. Very sure.
Is there any possibility that my colleague, Special Adviser Le Duc Tho, will attend these meetings in the future?
Xuan Thuy: I don’t know yet. As for myself, if I return to Hanoi, people would like to retain me there.
Kissinger: That’s why you must stay here.
Xuan Thuy: So, like you, it is difficult to make trips. It is the same for me also.
(Farewells all around.)9
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1039, Files for the President, Vietnam Negotiations, C.D., HAK II 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at the North Vietnamese Residence in Paris, 11 Rue Darthe. Haig forwarded an edited version to Bunker under a June 9 covering memorandum. (Ibid., Box 853, For the President’s Files—Lord, Vietnam Negotiations, Camp David Vol. VII) According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger left his office in Washington at 11:05 a.m., May 31, and returned at 8:15 a.m., June 1. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)↩
- When Kissinger informed Dobrynin during a June 8 meeting that the administration had made its final offer to the DRV, Kissinger stated that Dobrynin was surprised that there had been a meeting, a point that he believed was significant since Dobrynin had always known about the existence of the meetings in the past. (Memorandum of conversation, June 8; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 6 [Part 2]) The full text of the memorandum of conversation is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 252.↩
- See Document 34.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 35.↩
- See Documents 41 and 43.↩
- Reference is to the 109th plenary session held on April 15.↩
- The two first met in August 1969; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VI, Vietnam, January 1969–July 1970, Documents 105 and 106.↩
- Binh stated that U.S. troops should be withdrawn within 6 months. See ibid., Document 189.↩
- Kissinger sent a detailed analysis of the meeting in a May 31 memorandum to Nixon and made the following points: “Thuy seemed atypically uncertain, indicating that he believed the U.S. proposals were out of the ordinary and required serious decisions in Hanoi; he was concerned with the absence of a specific withdrawal date and proposal for the political issues; and Kissinger believed that there was a chance of a break-through this summer and a definite DRV decision in one or two more meetings.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1039, Files for the President, Vietnam Negotiations, HAK II 1971) Kissinger also sent a modified version of this memorandum to Bruce on June 5, and Bunker reported in backchannel message 144 from Saigon, June 3, that he informed Thieu about the meeting. (Both ibid., Box 853, For the President’s Files—Lord, Vietnam Negotiations, Camp David, Vol. VII)↩